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Thursday, February 23, 2017

Frustration: Letting Go of Miserable Comfort

Frustration has played a very important role in my life. It has been allowed to take center stage one too many times, and in spite of constantly resolving to deal with this, itself an additional source of frustration, it has eluded being dealt with in a proper and final manner. But this is something that I am making a conscious effort to alter, without the use of resolutions or a buddy-system approach to things. I suppose like all things in life, too much of a thing, any thing, leaves us tired of it, where after a certain point, or after having enough of having had enough, we identify the need to do away with this entity, or to be able to better accommodate it in our daily lives. My trials with frustration have been due to a number of causes, where items topping the list include things like, having low confidence and self-esteem, being unable to see outside of the bubble of frustration for lack of acceptance of the fact that I alone had the power to change this around in my own life, and one of my personal favorites, falling into the comfortable misery of being frustrated most of the time, so much so that the need to feel frustration became some kind of crutch that helped remind me of a life in motion, marked very clearly by the time it took me to journey from one frustration to another.

Problem Identification

Frustration is quite versatile in the sheer variety of instances where it makes itself known. Also, it offers itself up to be a handy gimmick to those so reliant on its use to help achieve a state of normalcy in their lives, usually without any recognition of the fact that frustration is the cause that led to a determined conclusion or reaction, that they end up chasing their tails with even greater frustration when any effort is devoted to understanding where it all first began. For its part, however, frustration is blameless, in and of itself, mostly because it makes no promises, and offers no solace to the user. Also, although it does not come with a disclaimer attached, the average person has more than enough input from others like her/him when it comes to the perils of being regularly frustrated, whether in a shorter or longer time span, like knowing it can eventually cause cardiac arrest, or a brain aneurysm. Still, it continues to hold its place in our collective vocabulary, where we become prone to relying on it with increasing degrees of necessity and intensity, as we go through life and its numerous downs that seem to follow the slowly evaporating supply of ups. We get frustrated at everything, from not being heard or counted, to not being served as promised, to feeling we have had to lose more than we would have liked to have gained, to very simply, as most definitions of the word go, feeling unfairly treated in being thwarted from achieving a result as envisioned. Examples of such “thwarting” I will spare you from for we each have innumerable examples of this, ranging all the way back to our earliest memories of having shed a tear because of an unhappiness committed against us. Maybe it was a trip to the zoo that was dangled just out of reach above our heads. Or maybe, it was realizing that being asked to be nice for the whole year in order to not get coal from Santa Claus, was merely an attempt at getting you to comport yourself in a manner acceptable to the collective, where no matter how impeccable a record you may wish to present, the makers of the deal always seem to have more than enough examples of why and how exactly you failed to make the non-coal cut. Taking candy from a baby, to use this expression in this context, is very, very frustrating to the baby, and depending on her or his mental makeup, could result in a violent explosion of pent-up rage later on in life.

Civilized Conditioning

The more we train other human beings to go get something, and to not let anything hinder their progress, and to do this on a constant basis come rain, shine, or any other kind of weather in between, the more we create pockets of soon-to-be-dashed hopes that will present numerous occasions for frustration to be experienced to its complete extent. There is nothing wrong with having an aim, or several aims in life, no matter if they are momentary in their mental conception, or lifelong in their realization. If nothing else, the ability to be able to pursue that which we see as worthwhile in our own existence is really a gift that most living things seem to be grateful for. However, at this juncture, I have to say that the emotional letdown of feeling frustrated, certainly in the manner in which the average civilized human being seems to experience it, is something that we have more practice with, when compared to those living creatures who seem to live more in harmony with the natural order of things. The not-so-apparent twist here is namely that of the civilized psyche driving people to drive themselves to the brink of living exasperation, as a way of life necessitated by the urge to live freely outside of that which plagues the rest of all life on this planet, namely, the laws of Nature and the push-and-pull of the chaos and order of the Universe. An extension of this may very well be the oddity of behaviour that all domesticated species seem to exhibit, as opposed to their still natural counterparts, where more and more we come across curious examples of the activities of dogs and cats, as an example, and how they deal with potential frustrations of being housed, or cooped up, and somehow, forced to disassociate themselves from their instincts, in favor of living favorably in a neatly organized but poorly copied replica of the world we all inhabit. If we apply the key points of this example to the average civilized human being, one of the first examples we can come up with is that of a curious child, still only mobile on hands and knees, attempting to access experiences that catch her or his eye, but being stopped from realizing this objective by caring parents who croon their reservations about why the experience in question was better to have been rescued from than to have been experienced. Even if one considers the fact that due to the lack of age-based experience accumulated by the infant, while she or he may be unable to comprehend the positive messages being uttered by those entrusted with her or his care, there is no age prerequisite for frustration to be experienced, let alone displayed by the sufferer.

"Helped" by Others

We are taught to aim high, all of us. Whether we ourselves achieve these heights, or we happen to be among those who serve as the example of how not to go about attempting to achieve anything at all, there is more than enough praise to be experienced when we espouse our lofty ambitions to people around us. Even if they think it unattainable, their first vocal reaction will be one of praise for aiming so high, further egging us on to attempt to achieve the impossible. However, should we falter in our efforts to achieve such a grand prize, then it is these very same people who will come around to let you know that in spite of their earlier comments, they were very much in doubt about the overall thinking that went on behind the scenes to arrive at such a high-flown target, in the first place. Welcome to the frustration double-whammy, where in a single instant, one is tearing-one’s-hair-out frustrated at the plan having gone awry failing in its achievement, while simultaneously feeling even more frustrated at the fact that one feels so frustrated to begin with, a terribly constricting downward spiral that seems to knock the wind out of us, for long enough to have us wondering about the state of things to come in this life. And, more often than not, most frustrations tend to be of this two-fold nature, where the repercussion of the second wave usually originates from a sense of being lied to, or to put it more accurately, from the realization that in spite of our best instincts warning us, we forced ourselves to lie to ourselves about the glory of the achievement on the other side of all of our efforts, something which we now seem forced to do even more of, especially after the initial failure. Thus, like the oyster that mistakenly lets in a grain of sand, we begin to let this inconvenience chafe at our insides, making its sharp edges felt with every little shift or movement of our body. Unlike the oyster, however, we do not always allow ourselves to apply any positive shine to this experience in order to create a cherished pearl. No, as with most things in our world, we spend the better part of our lives fighting pain with pain, inflicting moral righteousness upon the unsuspecting masses we ourselves belong to, and instead of helping ease any potential frustration, we end up exacerbating the vengeance of if it all, turning the experience of existing plainly, beautifully, into a painful game of attritive retribution, no matter at what point of time we made ourselves available to be part of the quorum of players.

There appears to be No Way Out

Faced with this reality, personally, and after the little bits of dust have settled, I have often allowed myself to experience a greater degree of frustration by further dumping guilt and self-imposed worthlessness squarely on my own shoulders. If I had to blame something, it would have to be me and my penchant for experiencing several layers of guilt at the same time, which only added to the original sense of guilt for already being a screwup, strangely naturally, without the need for any emulsifying additives to blend these pains together. If I were to be truly honest, however, I can plainly see that while I may have been helpless for being led to believe about my own current and future inadequacies as a human being when I was a child, I must also hold myself accountable for not allowing myself to mature out of this line of thinking, preferring instead, to perpetuate the self-recycled miseries of old and new, so that for all intents and purposes, I was easily able to convince myself that the dark hues of the world as seen in my mind really did exist. It was a strange comfort that I allowed myself, becoming easier to do with each instance that I was able to convince myself that I was on the receiving end of misfortune, through no perceivable fault of my own, something that was easily explained by the ultimate long-term view of past lives, arising from something I was responsible for in a previous life, something that I had no recollection of, to be sure. Although there were occasional and intermittent moments of lucidity, times when glancing at myself I was able to see the torture that I was putting myself through, a weirdly comforting thought would always help lay these “baseless fears” to rest, and it came to me as part of the all-pervading sense of worthlessness that I allowed myself to experience. So, instead of altering my train of thought, I would console myself into more misery by explaining to myself the degree of my worthlessness. It made perfect sense too, if you really think about it, because the logic was sound. If I was truly worthless, then what expectation did I ever hope to entertain that would allow me to see my lot in life turn out positively for me. And so it went, for the longest time, my frustration keeping itself alive in moments of paucity of the fuel it needed to sustain its glorious flame, my poor opinion of myself, by turning its hungry eyes to moments of what it would coerce me into believing was a potential recovery from this repetitive cycle. It was always easy to frustrate myself due to lack of progress in not fixing this chain of issues as soon as possible, which only served to get the whole cycle going again.

Understanding, Really

Currently, and very much in a state of work-in-progress, I have had the following realization that has helped me make a solid, and far more promising attempt to overcome this zone of self-abasement that I had grown used to wallowing in. I wish I knew what the exact moment was when I decided to make this shift, finally, to add to this a sense of the long awaited and inevitable, but it has most likely been a sense of fatigue with the rigmarole of self-guilt, followed by self-pity, self-loathing, and self-imposed confusion, which used to land me back to the guilt part of the chain of processes, with healthy doses of frustration all throughout. Getting sick and tired of something is not the best place to start recovery from, but I digress from the realization that I had had. Not one to claim others’ ideas as my own, no matter how mythical or fictional these others may truly or potentially be, but the idea that crossed my mind was one that I had come across from my learnings of the life of the Buddha. It finally dawned on me that the state of my life was a result of several and severe attachments to pure concepts, which may have included ideals of the highest and best possible ways to exist, but in reality, which only worked to feed the frustration loop, as a misguided sense of perfection was always at war with an imperfectly perfect world. The greatest of attachments seemed to be to the myth that if I really wanted to, I was able to control all aspects and features of my life, something more akin to fairytale than logic, really, and something that certainly did not stand me in good stead up until the time I decided that enough was truly enough.

Promising Results

It was only when I allowed myself to see imperfection as a strange and lasting form of perfection, mostly because of the shift in perception needed to both understand and accept this point of view, that I started to comprehend the uncalled for pains that I was inflicting upon myself. It was scary, even during this realization and its subsequent call to action, to see those who care for me attempt to keep me where they were most comfortable with me in their world, still ineffectually exploring the space between what should be and what is. This initial resistance proved to be a great place to begin my battle to understand my world, because if nothing else, I was hoping to smash the logic that held those who cared for me in its vile grip, whether or not they were willing to see it. My successes on this front have been mixed, but on the personal side of things, I have come a fair distance, with an equal amount of journeying yet to be completed. A sure sign of progress is the fact that even though I may consider myself to have more than halfway to go, perhaps even three-quarters of the distance remaining yet to be traversed and explored, I feel less angst at not having known any better at the beginning, or only having reached so far, mostly because I understand, or have finally allowed myself to accept the fact that I am part of the ebb and flow of this world, influencing it as part of the whole, certainly not in any way capable of manipulating macro events for my own personal gains, in my own little microcosm of an individually selfish world. In fact, it made perfect sense to me to not be in possession of any such ability, where it became perfectly evident that to be endowed with such powers would only make for a petty show due to the requisite amount of wisdom not being a guaranteed part of the equation needed to make something positive of the whole experience. For those seeking a movie reference, it would be like Bruce Almighty, but certainly not anywhere as movie-worthy a story.

A Work in Progress

In the end, and like I said, still very much a work in progress, the journey away from the center of the storm that was frustration was due to, quite strangely enough, a sense of frustration of having remained there for far too long in my life, especially after repeatedly recognizing this fact. Not to oversimplify, because I kid you not, it did involve a fair deal of soul searching and insane amounts of head scratching to find myself where I am today. Being in the midst of this evolution, the place that I find myself at the moment is still not ideal, to put it so without forcing a description of my own perception of this ideal place, or perhaps state of being, alternatively. The critical difference this time around, and if you have managed to follow along until now, without falling victim to one of my several scattered brain-tangents, of which this will be the last example, I assure you, then, you will appreciate my new outlook in which I make a concerted effort to appreciate where I am for the positives it offers me upfront, in comparison to where I was before. I have identified the need to be able to appreciate that which frustrates me, easier to do now than before surely, mostly due to the fact that it was frustration that ultimately led me to see that I was getting nowhere by indulging in it as my favorite pastime. There is still a long way to go, and after the end of this journey, the list of things to overcome, or unlearn, or to find the positive side of, in my life, is reduced by only one item, which is more of an initial statistic than an achievement. Still, and as I feel the familiarity of frustration imposing itself on that last statement, after all these years, this is really a cause for celebration! However, I will not allow myself to do so just yet, because this leads to a lethargic complacency which only serves to feed the frustration loop when I start to get comfortable resting on laurels not yet deserved. How’s that for having learned on the fly, after like a million times of not getting it. To each her or his own, because to find the answers we seek, we must allow ourselves the chance to do so, and accommodate the failures that occur in the meanwhile, instead of looking for the “perfect recipe” that will solve all our worries, because if you have not figured out yet, sellers of these solutions are never interested in helping you solve your problem, only on ensuring the problem persists because they stand to gain more money by treating you until you breathe your last. I may have experienced extreme levels of frustration in my life, but that is something I would like to stay away from doing to another human being.

So, here’s to me, and to you, for being willing to give ourselves the chance(s) we deserve to begin to enjoy the view we have of our lives, as opposed to forcing ourselves to settle for what other people, no matter how caring or well-intentioned, want us to have.
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